April 18, 2012

Greasy Pub Fare for the Fine Dining Crowd

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In your search for a delicious meal in the Commons, you may ask yourself some crucial questions in your journey to the heart of Ithaca’s restaurant scene. Who has the best burgers in town? Ithaca Ale House, so I’ve heard! Known for its decadent, juicy burgers made with ale and its large selection of ales (hence the name), this place is representative of true American food. If it’s in the Commons, how come I’ve never seen it? Located on the other side of Mahogany Grill and Bluestone Grill in the Commons, the restaurant’s narrow purple roof and its comic font is hardly noticeable from afar.

Blasting classic rock music and showing football on large TV screens, Ithaca Ale House has more of a sports bar or pub feel than that of a fine dining eatery. This place is completely packed everyday of the week and does not take reservations. Knowing this, my friends and I arrived early for dinner (around 6:00 pm) and were told that it would be a 20-minute wait. Having picked a sunny day for our hunt for delicious burgers, we were excited to enjoy the restaurant’s outdoor seating, a must-have for hungry friends looking to make the best of Ithaca’s few beautiful and warm days.

Always prepared before heading to any restaurant, I did some research and gathered that the Big Sexy Burger, the Perfect Burger, the Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls and the thin-crust pizzas are absolutely legendary. The menu items boast interesting names, such as the Monster Burger and the Bastard Burger, that only enhance their temptation. The appetizers are slightly expensive, but the main plates are very fairly priced and suitable for the typical college student. While drooling over the menu, our waitress took a noticeably long time bringing our drinks and taking our orders. The restaurant was not that busy, and the slow service and indifferent waitress brought down the sunny mood.

When the time finally came to order our appetizers, we ordered the Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls and The Za Pizza. For our main plate, I ordered the Big Sexy Burger and my friends had the Perfect Burger: I mean, how can you resist the perfect, and the big and sexy? My legal-aged friend ordered Stone Pale Ale and really liked the thick and strong taste.

Despite the disappointingly long wait, we found every plate to be absolutely delicious. The Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls were delightfully crunchy and served with a tomato bleu cheese dip, which was a unique and delicious touch. The pizza was similar to the classic favorite Margherita pizza. The Za Pizza, with its thin and crispy crust, was a refreshing change from the ubiquitous greasy and doughy late-night snack.

Now, let me tell you: once you try the burgers at Ithaca Ale House, you will begin to question why you wasted your time and money at Stella’s, Rulloff’s or the dining halls and did not discover the deliciousness of the Big Sexy Burger and the Perfect Burger.  The Perfect Burger is served with a large steak knife right through the middle and with your choice of sides. It has all the typical ingredients of a common burger: beef patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. But it is put together perfectly: the burger is warm, the buns are soft, the beef is cooked to your liking, the cheese is melted just right and the size of the burger is suitable for the average mouth. The Big Sexy Burger is the classic BBQ burger made to perfection. The BBQ sauce is blended perfectly with mayonnaise and two different cheeses, and the end result gets away with not being too heavy or greasy. The fries were also incredible; they were crunchy inside but soft outside and fried to golden perfection.

While we were more than satisfied with our delectable burgers, we fortunately had space for some dessert. The dessert menu features a wide range of mouthwatering options, and just browsing them will have your stomach growling. We finally decided on the hot cookie sundae: an irresistible combination of warm cookies, ice cream, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. The portion size was quite large and one dessert can likely be shared between 3 to 4 people. We left the Ithaca Ale House with bloated stomachs and frustration with the lousy service, but overall a happy impression.

Ithaca Ale House is strongly recommended to diners looking for the tastiest burger in town in the heart of the Commons. Although the service was slow and of poor quality, the food definitely made up for the restaurant’s flaws and left a great memory. The pub-like touch and the option of outdoor seating makes the dining experience unique. So kick back, relax at the outdoor seating in the sunshine, and have a juicy one!

Original Author: Yilin Zhang